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Columns

February 10, 2007

Could Dahl's food fantasy come true?

When I start selling this gum in the shops it will change everything! It will be the end of all kitchens and all cooking! There will be no more marketing to do! No more buying of meat and groceries! There'll be no knives and forks at mealtimes! No plates! No washing up! No garbage! No mess! Just a little strip of Wonka's magic chewing gum ' and that's all you'll ever need at breakfast, lunch, and supper!" Willy Wonka



Forty-three years after Roald Dahl wrote 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,' his fantasy of a piece of chewing gum that tastes and feels like a three-course meal may not be all that far-fetched.



In our increasingly industrialized food supply, the line between natural and manmade is getting harder to discern. Thanks to advances in science and the development of nanotechnology, we can tinker with just about every part of our food supply, from produce to packaging.



There are already more chemicals in our food than many of us care to admit.



Take a walk around the supermarket. In addition to whole aisles of processed foods, you'll find a growing number of products advertising, in big letters, the ways in which they've been modified or enhanced. We take out the sugar and the fat and replace it with chemicals. We boost the nutritional value by adding fiber to bread, vitamins to cereal, calcium to orange juice.



Sometimes, we mess with nature for no good reason. Consider the Grapple (rhymes with maple), a gimmicky new fruit from Washington state. Made by soaking Fuji apples in Concord grape juice, the Grapple has no added sugar or calories, but, according to its manufacturer, lots more flavor. (And according to its ingredient list, some of that flavor is artificial). I tried one and it was horrible: a too-sweet apple with an odd, grapey taste ' and none of the cool, juicy flavor burst you get when you bite into a grape.

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